Canada is headed towards a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, but how severe of a resurgence it’ll be depends on how many people are fully vaccinated, warns new national modelling released Friday.
The country is seeing an increase in new COVID-19 cases, and thousands more infections are predicted if contacts aren’t contained, the modelling indicates.
The new picture on Canada’s pandemic trajectory shows the serious threat the highly-contagious Delta variant is posing, and the risk that the unvaccinated may be to the country being thrust into a fourth wave of the disease.
“The updated longer-range forecast shows how the epidemic trajectory may evolve through early September. It suggests that we are at the start of the Delta-driven fourth wave, but that the trajectory will depend on ongoing increases in fully vaccinated coverage, and the timing, pace and extent of reopening,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.
After weeks of sustained decline in new cases, the Public Health Agency of Canada is warning that if community-wide contact rates increase too quickly with ongoing reopening efforts, the long-term forecast indicates Canada could experience a “stronger resurgence” of the virus.
Ultimately, factoring in the spread of Delta, hospital capacity could be exceeded this fall or winter if more people don’t get vaccinated, the modelling indicates.
The predominance of the Delta variant “underscores the need for high vaccination coverage and continued caution as restrictions are eased,” the modelling states.
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s aim is to see as many eligible Canadians vaccinated this summer as possible. As of midday Friday, 80.5 per cent of those eligible have received a first dose, while 65.8 per cent of those eligible are now fully vaccinated.
“If we can get to 90 [per cent vaccinated], I’ll be popping over the champagne for sure,” Tam said.
The new data predicts that in the short-term, the case count will continue to increase, meaning the country could see between 2,700 and 11,800 new cases over the next week or so. As of midday Friday, there have been 1,429,937 reported cases nationwide, and by Aug. 8 that number could grow to between 1,432,555 to 1,441,610 cases.
One sign that Canada’s case counts are on an upward trajectory: the national “Rt” or effective reproduction number, recently started trending above one around mid-July, meaning there are “early signs of epidemic growth” in some regions. This comes after the “Rt” had remained out of a growth pattern since April.
“If the ‘Rt’ remains persistently above one for several weeks, with the predominance of the highly contagious Delta variant, we could expect to see a return to rapid epidemic growth, particularly as measures that slow the spread are eased,” said Tam.
PHAC says it saw a five-fold increase in the proportion of Delta cases in June, reminding that Delta cases have an increased risk for hospitalization, and has reduced vaccine effectiveness against a symptomatic infection. Further, the majority of the Delta cases in Canada are in those who are unvaccinated, or are partially vaccinated.
“People seem to be, in certain areas, tired and forgetting about science, which is unfortunate,” said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease expert and assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, in an interview on CTV News Channel.
“We know at this point that we are going to live with the virus… however we don’t have enough data, information, vaccination, ways to treat this virus… we don’t have enough of that knowledge yet to expect to treat this just like another respiratory virus,” she continued.
89.7 PER CENT OF CASES UNVACCINATED
In an indication that the vaccines are working, the modelling does not anticipate the rate of new deaths to increase along with the uptick in new cases.
The modelling shows that regionally, hospitalization rates remain low, with fewer than one per cent of reported cases and fewer than one per cent of hospitalized cases occurring in people who are fully vaccinated.
The flipside of this statistic though, is that 89.7 per cent of all cases are occurring in eligible, but unvaccinated people, and 84.9 per cent of hospitalized cases are people who are unvaccinated. Another 5.3 per cent of cases are in those who are not yet eligible for vaccines, and 4.6 per cent of infections are in those who are partially vaccinated.
Tam said it’s also mostly those who are unvaccinated who are dying after contracting COVID-19.
The federal health officials are now pushing to see a marked increase in vaccination rates in younger populations, warning that if they don’t increase in the coming months, Canada could face a “serious resurgence” this fall or winter.
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo called out the approximately 6.3 million eligible Canadians who have yet to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.
“What are you waiting for?” said Njoo. “This is all very preventable if people go forward and get vaccinated, so let’s go for it. Let’s go.”
Generally speaking, the rate of vaccination decreases in each younger demographic. During the early stages of the rollout, older generations were often prioritized for vaccination ahead of younger ones.
As of last week the percentages in each age group who are fully vaccinated are:
- 89 per cent of those aged 70 or older;
- 81 per cent of those aged 60-69;
- 70 per cent of those aged 50-59;
- 63 per cent of those aged 40-49;
- 54 per cent of those aged 30 to 39;
- 46 per cent of those aged 18 to 29; and
- 37 per cent of those aged 12 to 17.
The data also breaks down how each province stacks up on vaccination rates, with Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and Alberta still having the farthest to go in terms of fully vaccinating its eligible population, while the Yukon and Northwest Territories continue to lead the nation in vaccination rates.
B.C. says it can't take patients from Alberta's overwhelmed ICUs – CBC.ca
B.C. says it won’t be able to take any of Alberta’s extra intensive care unit patients at a time when that province’s hospitals are buckling under the weight of patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.
In a statement, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the ministry met with its Alberta counterparts Thursday. A day earlier, Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services (AHS) said she would ask other provinces if they would take ICU patients who need care, or spare staff that can work in intensive care units.
But Dix said B.C. can’t take on Alberta patients now.
“Given the current demands on B.C.’s health-care system, we will not be able to assist with taking patients at this time,” he said.
“However, we have told Alberta that if there are things we can do to support them, we will. And if we can take patients on in the future, we will.
“We are in a global pandemic, and our thoughts are with Albertans as they respond to COVID-19 in their province.”
Yui said Thursday some Alberta patients may be transferred to Ontario.
Alberta is in the midst of a punishing fourth wave with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country. As of Thursday afternoon, the province had 18,706 active cases.
As well, there were 896 patients in hospital across the province with COVID-19, including 222 in intensive care.
Dr. Ilan Schwartz, a physician and assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, told CBC News that “Alberta hospitals really are on the brink of collapse.”
In comparison, as of Thursday, B.C. has 291 people in hospital with the disease, 134 of whom are in intensive care.
The effects of Alberta’s COVID-19 crisis are being felt in B.C.
Many British Columbians in border towns rely on the Alberta health-care system, said Mike Bernie, MLA for Peace River South.
He noted that for his own hometown, Dawson Creek, the closest major hospital is in Grande Prairie, in northwestern Alberta.
WATCH | Alberta faces new restrictions as COVID-19 cases soar:
“A lot of these border communities rely on Alberta as the closest centre for triaging, acute care or emergency situations. It’s faster and easier to go to Alberta,” Bernier said.
He said B.C. is in a tough position when it comes to helping its eastern neighbour.
“As Canadians, we want to help each other, so if there is opportunity in communities to help our neighbouring province, we will all want to do that. But we also have to get our numbers down in British Columbia if we want to be able to help other provinces.”
A warning to B.C.
Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematics professor at Simon Fraser University, said while Alberta is in a tough situation, B.C. isn’t too far behind.
“We’re on that knife edge where if we [were to take on patients] in an area that then saw an increase in COVID transmission, that would place a burden on that region’s ICU and capacity for providing care,” Colijn said. “[Our ICUs] are not relaxed or well under-capacity here from what I understand.”
Dr. Don Wilson, who has worked in Alberta and currently works in B.C., said he’s worried about people in Alberta and his fellow health-care professionals.
“I’m very concerned for my colleagues as well as the population of Alberta for the way COVID has been handled and the crisis that they’re facing at the moment,” Wilson said.
Wilson said that Alberta’s late adoption of public health measures, like its proof-of-vaccination program and masking measures serve as a reminder for British Columbia to stay vigilant.
“That’s the warning for British Columbia. To be proactive and not as reactive for Alberta.”
Between violence and vandalism, the parties are experiencing a very ugly campaign – CBC.ca
The three main parties say they’ve experienced ugly incidents on the campaign trail, ranging from vandalism to assault. Some party operatives say it’s the nastiest campaign they’ve ever experienced.
One high-profile incident happened earlier this month when someone threw gravel at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, resulting in charges against a former People’s Party of Canada riding president.
Protests are a common sight during any election but many party workers say the ones they’re seeing during this campaign have been more alarming. The Liberal Party had to cancel a late August stop due to security concerns.
WATCH | Trudeau, security detail hit by gravel stones
Calgary Nose Hill Conservative candidate Michelle Rempel Garner released a statement earlier in the campaign saying she has been a victim of harassing behaviour on the campaign trail. She said she’s been accosted by men with cameras “demanding I respond to conspiracy theories.”
“In the last two weeks, I have also received a death threat from someone who called my office in escalating states of verbal abuse over the course of days,” she said in an Aug. 28 statement.
“It’s unfortunately an all too frequent occurrence for me and many of my colleagues, particularly women, of all political stripes. And this increase in violent language, threats and abuse certainly isn’t confined to politics.”
Canadian Anti-Hate Network executive director Evan Balgord said that this has been the worst campaign he’s seen in recent history in terms of far-right activity, which he sees as largely motivated by the pandemic.
“They believe that there is this awful situation going on, like the apocalypse, right? They think that they’re using mask mandates and stuff to kill or kidnap children or render them infertile,” he said.
“The scapegoats they’ve picked are the people they think are the puppet masters — Trudeau, provincial health authorities. And amongst the most hardcore adherents it would be the Jews, the shadow globalists, the elite and so on and so forth.”
While the Liberal Party appears to be the prime target, Balgord said members of the far-right see the Conservatives as complicit.
Vandalism, alleged assaults
Liberal candidate Carla Qualtrough, seeking re-election in the British Columbia riding of Delta, said she’s seen more expressions of hate and rage during this campaign than in previous years, including anti-LGBT and antisemitic graffiti.
“The police are involved. They’re investigating some of the issues that we’re facing. So yeah, it’s a definite tone and it’s hateful and it’s unacceptable,” she told reporters earlier this week.
“It’s not just anger or difference of opinion. It’s really spiralled to hateful and unacceptable behaviour.”
She’s not the only candidate to involve the police. Kitchener South-Hespeler Conservative candidate Tyler Calver said Waterloo Regional Police are investigating after one of his volunteers was assaulted at a campaign office earlier this month.
Greater Sudbury police charged a 56-year-old woman for allegedly assaulting incumbent Liberal Marc Serré in his campaign office in the federal riding of Nickel Belt in northern Ontario. Police said she pushed a table against him, pinning him against the wall.
On the East Coast, Liberal candidate Dominic LeBlanc said he reported vandalism to the RCMP after someone spray-painted a campaign sign with the words “COVID Nazi.”
“There have been some other disgusting, personal things,” he said. “Somebody spray-painted one talking about my mother, who passed away a year and half ago.”
Liberal candidate Anita Anand, seeking re-election in Oakville, said her campaign has seen about 35 per cent of its signs destroyed.
Ottawa South NDP candidate Huda Mukbil said her signs are constantly being torn down.
She blames the vandalism on people opposed to the changing racial and gender makeup of Canadian politics.
“It’s particularly difficult for women generally. And then for racialized women like myself, that much more,” she told CBC Ottawa.
“So what we have to do is just come together and say that this is unacceptable in Canada.”
Balgord said the violence this year follows the trajectory of what’s been percolating online.
“We’ve allowed online hate to just fester in all the online platforms that Canadians use every day,” he said.
“When online hate festers like that, people start to think it’s normal and acceptable to not just say those things online, but to do those things kind of in person.”
People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier was egged at a campaign event earlier this month in Saskatoon.
In an August 26 news release, Green Party Leader Annamie Paul raised concerns about mounting threats to her campaign. The party says that while the Green campaign has not seen any hecklers at press conferences, it’s aware of online posts threatening to disrupt events.
‘We will not allow them to define us’: Trudeau
As the campaign enters its final days, nerves appear frayed.
Trudeau is standing by his response to a heckler who used a sexist slur against his wife.
“Isn’t there a hospital you should be going to bother right now?” Trudeau said.
On Thursday, the Liberal leader said he won’t step back in the face of protests or harassment.
WATCH | Trudeau to heckler: ‘Isn’t there a hospital you should be going to bother?’
“We will not allow an angry minority that does not believe in science — and we have a lot of examples of their intolerance of women, the fact that they are racist — we will not allow them to define us and decide the direction we will take to put an end to this pandemic,” he said in French.
But NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said such snide remarks only bait protesters, who that day had picketed hospitals across the country.
“He shouldn’t have been joking about that because it’s it is dangerous and it’s really causing problems for lots of people,” he said this week.
When asked to comment on campaign violence, the NDP accused Trudeau of sowing divisions with rhetoric that has led to heightened frustrations and backlash.
“Justin Trudeau called a selfish election and throughout his campaign, rather than provide solutions for the challenges families face, he’s talked about divisions,” said a party spokesperson.
“Families are paying the price for his rhetoric — protesters blocking hospitals and assaulting health care workers, a rise in COVID-19 cases across the province and even violence on the campaign trail.”
COMMENTARY: Young Canadians are struggling economically. This election is our chance to fix that. – Global News
Much like nearly half of the country, I was hoping Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wouldn’t call an early election in the midst of a pandemic, but here we are.
Canada’s federal election will take place on Sept. 20, so the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens have just a few days left to convince young Canadians to vote in their favour. Top of mind for gen Zs and millennials? Employment.
Unemployment rates for young Canadians increased by six per cent from 2019 to 2020 — roughly twice that of older Canadians, a Statistics Canada study about youth employment published last month revealed. Indeed, by 2020, the unemployment rate for Canadians aged 15 to 30 who weren’t in school full-time hovered just under 15 per cent. This has been a trend since COVID-19’s arrival in March 2020 when the number of post-secondary working students dropped by 28 per cent from the previous month.
As StatsCan says, this relatively high unemployment rate suggests young Canadians joining the labour force “might see lower earnings in the years following graduation than they would have in a more dynamic labour market.”
Canada’s third COVID-19 wave creates ‘zigzag’ economy
There’s a clear need for a post-pandemic recovery plan that supports gen Zs and millennials in getting jobs. Some even had to sacrifice internships and other entry-level opportunities that would’ve given them a foot in the door because COVID-19’s arrival not only meant that working out of the office wasn’t an option, but also that many companies weren’t yet prepared for the transition to remote working.
Case in point: One of my fellows who graduated from journalism school in the spring of 2020 lost out on a school-funded reporting trip to Rwanda and an internship — which could have led to a permanent job — because the newsroom decided not to bring on interns after the pandemic’s arrival. To make matters worse, due to his unique circumstances as someone who graduated right before COVID-19 hit, he neither qualified for Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) program nor the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) because he hadn’t started working yet.
He told me the CESB wasn’t enough to support him, so he’s been living with his parents during the pandemic. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) provided a scant $1,250 per month for eligible students from May through August 2020, and $1,750 per month for students with dependents and those with permanent disabilities. In most major Canadian cities, that amount would barely cover the cost of one month’s rent for a studio apartment.
Young Canadians with disabilities, who are less likely to be employed than their non-disabled counterparts, have even bigger economic barriers to overcome. Indeed, the election announcement effectively killed Bill C-35, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act, which aims to reduce poverty and support the financial security of working-age Canadians with disabilities.
As part of Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery plan, our parties would do well to create green jobs. Not only will they contribute to the fight against climate change, which is a priority issue for gen Zs and millennials, these jobs will also help young Canadians get back to work. They include opportunities in the sectors of renewable energy, environmental protection, sustainable urban planning and more, as well as low-carbon jobs like teaching and care-worker roles.
Canada’s job seekers may have upper hand amid labour squeeze
Despite some resistance to a snap election as the delta variant of COVID-19 picks up, our country’s politicians have an opportunity to improve the financial future of young Canadians across the country during a time when they’re struggling economically.
Now’s the time to shore up our youngest generations and future leaders.
Anita Li is a media strategist and consultant with a decade of experience as a multi-platform journalist at outlets across North America. She is also a journalism instructor at Ryerson University, the City University of New York’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and Centennial College. She is the co-founder of Canadian Journalists of Colour, a rapidly growing network of BIPOC media-makers in Canada, as well as a member of the 2020-21 Online News Association board of directors. To keep up with Anita Li, subscribe to The Other Wave, her newsletter about challenging the status quo in journalism.
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